I have a liberal arts degree. I spent my college years reading, writing, dreaming up creative ideas, and finding the best liquor deals around town. I don’t mean to be dismissive – it was an incredible 4.5 years – liberal arts degrees just lend themselves really well to debates on malt/hop ratios (more hops), Speyside vs. Islay (Islay no question), and whether whisky distilleries should have their own malting floor (yes). Add in a love of travel and penchant for technical endeavors (e.g., building computers, learning complex programs, designing this website) and travel blogging jumps to the fore as a hobby right in my wheelhouse. And true to form, I’ve loved blogging these last six months. The creative outlet and community are priceless.
But what happens when you want to elevate that hobby into a business?
The thought has crossed all our minds at one time or another: “how do we make a living out of what makes us happy?” Indeed, this is the quagmire I find myself in, thrashing like a horse in the middle of a lake. While I love the Socratic method of my college days I’d give an arm and a leg right about now to see Socrates figure this one out. You see, I’m tragically ill-equipped to tackle matters of business.
I’ve done my fair share of detective work and the usual suspects line up: SEO, AdSense, affiliate programs, key words, rate cards, subscription fees, static sites, and the list goes on. That’s just scratching the surface of general blog monetization. Travel bloggers, in particular, seem to be an entrepreneurial bunch. David Lee runs Travel Blog Success, Craig Martin has Make Money Travel Blogging up and running, and Matt Kepnes’ ebook on How to Make Money Travel Blogging has been out for a long time. I’m sure there are plenty more examples.
I’ve found plenty of valuable information telling me how to make money, but the resources are lacking when it comes to goal setting and business planning – areas that feel like the very front end of the blogging as business transition. I informally polled my followers on Twitter to see if anyone had put together a business plan for their travel blog. I heard a lot of crickets and a couple like-minded souls seeking the same info. Obviously a horribly unscientific experiment, but it wasn’t exactly the response I was looking for (or expected).
Truth be told, I’m OK with this. It’s just one more affirmation that I’m the right path, the (mostly) untrodden path. Traveling Savage just recently hit its six-month birthday. In those six months I haven’t tried to adhere to any particular plan for content, advertising, or growth. I’ve simply written the type of content I like to read and tried to make a site I like to look at. You might scoff at my lack of direction, and I wouldn’t blame you. For disciples of Mr. Godin, I’m probably thrashing a little too late in the creative process. I suppose my primary subconscious goal during this period was to find out if I liked blogging, if I had a voice, if I had something to say. The answer is ‘yes’ on all accounts.
Since I’ve started looking toward the future, I’ve found a couple of helpful articles on Problogger, including how to create a blogging plan and 5 steps for planning the direction of your blog. I also found a post on thinking about your blog from a fiction standpoint immensely helpful for visualizing – don’t miss it. Right now I’m in the midst of putting together a one-page business plan. It has already proven to be a useful creative exercise and helped me pin down my vision and mission for this blog.
If you don’t have a vision for your blog, don’t sweat it. Maybe you’ve been blogging for fun and now want to turn it into a business. Maybe you’re thinking about starting a blog but hesitating because you haven’t nailed down a solid plan. While this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, I say go for it. Start writing and give yourself time to develop and focus your creativity. It would be a shame if you never started because you couldn’t see the end. If you can build in this period before you need or want to make money, all the better.
I’m no business guru (see above). I can only share what I’ve done with you. Goal setting and business planning mostly just take a lot of thought – there aren’t “right” goals to choose. They will be unique to you and what you want to accomplish. Is my tendency to let things develop organically and thrash late in the game the path to reckless failure? Am I nailing my coffin shut from the inside?
Maybe. But I already see it as the genesis of something special.
Have you created a business plan for your travel blog? Are you playing it by ear and letting the chips fall where they may? Share your tips and secrets!
Original photo by laverrue via Flickr under Creative Commons